The Massachusetts State Senate recently passed, by a vote of 35-1, a bipartisan resolution calling for the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This is a critical first step in the vital reform of our campaign finance laws, but it's just the beginning. In order to fully restore democracy, and make sure that it's the people electing candidates and not corporate and special interest money, we need comprehensive campaign finance campaign reform (also known as “Clean Elections”).
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, the lead sponsor of the resolution, Senate bill 772, said, “In two short years, the Citizens United decision has upended our election system, and the voices of ordinary Americans risk being drowned out by the tens of millions of dollars that are being poured into attack ads paid for by corporate donors.”
That is why as Chair of the Concord Democratic Town Committee, I led the effort for the committee to vote to support the effort by Senator Eldridge and our own state Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, to call for a constitutional amendment, and last year as co-chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s Public Policy Subcommittee I organized a forum discussing Citizens United at the 2011 Democratic State Convention.
It's also why I had Jeff Clements, author of "Corporatations Are Not People" and founder of "Free Speech for People" as a guest on my talk show to make sure more people would know about how corporate campaign cash is harming our democracy, and what we need to do to keep it out of our political system. (The show aired on local cable stations throughout Massachusetts and can be seen online by going to: www.Vimeo.com/19758209.)
But overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is just the first step. Our country’s campaign finance system, including here in Massachusetts is deeply broken.
This year, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin has stated that lobbyists will spend more money contributing to candidates than ever before in Massachusetts. The current campaign finance system is gamed for corporate special interests, attacking efforts to pass legislation ranging from universal single- payer health care to greater transparency with corporate tax breaks.
This is wrong. Important legislation before the Massachusetts Legislature that would make a critical difference in the lives of Massachusetts residents has little chance to see the light of day, with the ability of corporate lobbyists, and the clients they represent, spending unlimited amounts of money to prevent legislation as common-sense as the updated Bottle Bill from coming up.
Eldridge is the only person ever elected in Massachusetts under the Clean Elections law, which was passed by the over two-thirds of the voters of Massachusetts in 1998, only to be repealed in 2003 by the Legislature and Governor Romney. Under that law, candidates who received a certain number of signatures and minimal contributions receive public funding in exchange for foregoing large donations and political action committee (PACs) contributions. This ensures that corporate special interests or wealthy individuals don’t have an inordinate influence on the kind of candidates that are elected to public office, and candidates can focus on the interests of the people they represent.
With comprehensive campaign finance “Clean Elections” reform, we'll rid our political system of the flood of corporate and special interest money that is poisoning our democracy. If you really believe that we should have a government that is elected by the people, and that represents the people, and acts on behalf of the people, you'll support clean money campaign reform. So long as monied interests are allowed to buy elections, the people will not have the government the framers of the United States Constitution intended.
To those who have lost faith in government, and to those who say it doesn't matter who wins, I say, "If the government doesn't make any difference, why do you think the Koch brothers are trying to buy it?" Corporations know the government has tremendous power, and they're using campaign finance law to elect candidates who will do their bidding.
If elected to represent the 3rd Middlesex district, I plan to file public campaign finance legislation that will reduce the influence of special interests and wealthy donors, and allow elected officials to focus on the serving the needs of their districts, and no one else.